There are 2 main choices when it comes to nappies – disposables or washables.

There are pros and cons to both, but there’s no doubt washable nappies are kinder to the environment. Whichever you choose, make sure you always wash your hands and dispose of or wash nappies properly.

Disposable nappies

There’s a wide choice of disposable nappies and there are options to suit most budgets. It’s worth trying a few to see what suits you and your baby. The most expensive aren’t always the best.

Throw away dirty nappies carefully. You can:

  • buy a special nappy bin which you’ll need to empty 2 or 3 times a week
  • put each dirty nappy in a nappy sack and put it in the bin - if possible, put it straight in your outdoor bin

Store nappy sacks well out of reach - babies can suffocate or choke on them

Washable nappies

If you choose to use washable nappies you can:

  • use nappies you wash and dry yourself at home
  • use washable cotton nappies with throw-away liners and some parents find this is a good option
  • pay for dirty nappies to be taken away and swapped for clean ones if you have a local nappy laundry service

Reusable nappy schemes

Many councils have schemes to support the use of reusable nappies.

All you really need to change your baby's nappy is a changing mat or clean towel. You can change your baby on the floor.

Some parents like to use a changing station which means you can stand up when you’re changing them. If you use one, never leave your baby alone on it in case they roll and fall.

How to change a nappy

Nappy changing
When changing you baby's nappy lay them down on their back on a changing mat or towel Public Health Scotland

To change your baby's nappy:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Get a clean, dry nappy, a bowl of warm water, cotton wool and a small soft towel
  3. Lay your baby down on their back on the changing mat or towel
  4. Unfasten their clothes from the waist down and then unfasten and take off the nappy
  5. Hold their legs and feet up and wipe their bottom and genitals clean with cotton wool balls soaked in warm water - wipe baby girls from front to back to prevent an infection
  6. Pat them dry with a small soft towel
  7. Put on a clean nappy and dispose of the dirty nappy
  8. Wash your hands

Talk to your baby at each step and tell them what you’re doing so they can pick up the routine.

Nappy rash

Nappy rash is quite common in babies. The symptoms are redness or soreness on and around your baby’s bottom and genitals.

You can help prevent it by:

  • changing dirty nappies as soon as you can
  • cleaning and drying your baby’s bottom carefully

It can also help to leave them without a nappy for a short time.

Treating nappy rash

Only use a nappy cream if your baby’s skin is red or sore. Put a small amount on and rub it in well. 

If the rash doesn’t seem to get any better or you’re worried, speak to your midwife, health visitor, family nurse or pharmacist.

Further information and other languages and formats

More information on the breastfeeding can be found in these resources, available in multiple languages and formats.

For alternative languages and formats, please contact


Last updated:
13 February 2023